Germany’s prime carmaker Volkswagen Group, producer of Audi and VW, has committed to invest €30 billion in battery-powered vehicles until 2023. Despite limited raw materials and few available e-car charging stations, there is "significant opportunity," analysts say, suggesting; "For auto manufactures, it could be a case of evolve or die out.”

National Grid, the UK power and gas system operator, is working towards launching a ‘pathfinder to evaluate constraints and encourage innovation and investment in supply stability. Analysts say this could lower cost for balancing services and ultimately lead to lower energy rates for consumers.

The German finance ministry has made clear it will not pay more into the EU budget to bolster the Commission’s ambitious €1 trillion Green Deal. The ministry said if the EU budget remained at 1 percent of economic output, this would give "enough leeway for mustering the necessary funds through priority setting."

Bearish sentiment prevails at the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub where gas prices have tumbled to multi-year lows, dragging down wholesale electricity prices at several major hubs like PJM Interconnection and the ISOs in New England, and New York. In Texas, however, high demand and low reserve margins pushed up prices in the peak summer season.

Surging supply from the U.S. and stuttering demand growth in Asia means that in 2020, “Europe will again be called upon to save the day,” said Wood Mackenzie research director Robert Sims. With gas inventories at record highs, European gas buyers are looking for flexible supply, or increased demand creation from within the power sector.

Flow data shows U.S. natural gas output in the Lower 48 states has gained 7.0 billion cubic feet per day y/y to date in January, as shippers struggle with restrictions across the TETCO pipeline network in Appalachia. The return of cold weather this week, and long-term rig decline across Appalachia, starts to drag down production and pushes up gas prices.

The Japanese government keeps watering down its green energy goals, bowing to cost pressure in the face of slower macroeconomic growth. Ambitious targets to decrease gas and coal generation to 27 percent and 26 percent shares, respectively, and offset that lost capacity with nuclear and renewables, are no longer being pursued.

Gassco, the Norwegian natural gas pipeline operator, has transported 106.99 billion cubic metres of gas from Norway to northern Europe and the UK in 2019 – just above the volume of Australian LNG exports in the same year.

China’s Blue Sky Policy envisages boosting the share of natural gas in the energy mix from currently 7.5 percent to 15 percent by 2030 which requires substantial investment in LNG and pipeline import capacity and related infrastructure. Imports are forecast to meet more than 70 percent of gas consumption in Greater China in 2040.

Spot gas prices at the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub in Louisiana have fallen to their lowest level in the past year since 2016 as domestic production keeps growing. “Lower natural gas prices in 2019 supported higher consumption – particularly in the electric generation sector – and higher natural gas exports,” EIA analysts commented.

Gazprom has just launched TurkStream, a two-string gas pipeline through the Black Sea to Turkey with a combined throughput capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters (Bcm). The first string will deliver Russian gas to Turkey, while the second string is intended for gas transit to southeastern Europe.

The energy portion of the S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) has risen faster than other commodities over the course of 2019 with prices of WTI and Brent crude oil up 31 percent and 20 percent, respectively. In contrast, natural gas futures sold on NYMEX fell 26 percent to end the year at $2.19/MMBtu — the largest decline of all commodities in the index.

Traded volumes of natural gas in European brokered markets have soared nearly 22% to reach 30,496 TWh in the period from January-November, according to the London Energy Brokers’ Association (Leba). Volumes on the Dutch TTF – Europe’s most liquid hub – increased over 21%, while UK NBP trading fell nearly 27%.

Germany’s largest utility Uniper strives to fast-track permitting and construction of a floating storage and regas unit (FSRU) in Brunsbüttel to importLNG from Australia, among others.To that end, Uniper agreed with Woodside Energy Trading Singapore to import 0.5 mtpa initially from 2023, which will be increased to 1 mtpa by 2025.

Germany's expansion of renewable energy sources will be unable to keep up with future demand growth, leading the country to miss its renewable targets in its 2030 power generation mix, say researchers from the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne (EWI).

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News in Brief

ExxonMobil enhances turbine oils

Jan 17 – New high performance turbine oils, developed by ExxonMobil Lubricants, are  entering the market which are formulated to prevent build-up of lacquer, varnish and deposits. The oils are designed to protect against thermal and oxidative degradation, one of the root causes of deposit build-up.

Wärtsilä signs O&M deals in the Bahamas

Jan 16 – Following the commissioning of a Wärtsilä-built 132 MW power plant in Bahamas in December, the Finish manufacturer now signed a two-year operation and maintenance (O&M) accord with the plant owner, the Bahamas Power and Light Company (BPL). Wärtsilä will transition, train, and develop the owner’s Bahamian work force and provide key performance guarantees.

China, S'Korea curtail coal to tackle air pollution

Jan 15 – Beijing city government’s aggressive approach to tackling air pollution is working and South Korea’s spring coal-fired curtailments show some success in cutting seasonal emissions. According to Wood Mackenzie, this should benefit LNG, particularly while spot prices remain low.

Sri Lanka at brink of power shortages

Jan 14 – Sri Lanka could face power cuts by March, after plans for a large-scale coal power plant were been cancelled just prior to start of construction, and a tender for a 300 MW diesel plants ended up in court. On the demand side, pressure is building up as the region is moving into the dry season in February and March. Weather warnings say the island is likely to receive lower than average rainfall in the first quarter of 2020.

Caterpillar’s new genset comply with UK & German grid codes

Jan 13 – Caterpillar Inc. has launched a series of new generator sets that comply with the new G99 United Kingdom, VDE-AR-N 4110 German and Belgium C10/C11 grid codes. The following gensets – G3500H, CG132B, CG170, and CG260 (rated from 280-4,500kVA) – have been verified to be able to accommodate different reactive power modes, active power functions, and connection conditions for normal operation or reconnection after mains decoupling.

Transneft launches battery-based power supply for ILI tools

Jan 10 – Transneft Diascan, the largest Russian inspection service provider for pipelines, has developed and put into operation a power supply system for in-line inspection (ILI) tools based on rechargeable batteries. Flaw detectors performing inspections of trunk oil pipelines, gas pipelines and oil product pipelines can now use the energy from rechargeable batteries, which helps save time and reduces the cost of in-line inspection.

Pavilion starts trading LNG out of Madrid

Jan 9 – Singapore-based Pavilion Energy has completed the acquisition of all gas and LNG assets of the Spanish utility Iberdrola. From its new European headquarters in Madrid, Pavilion said has launched 2020 LNG trading operations with supplies focusing on Spain and the UK market.

Gazprom extends gas transits via Belarus until 2021

Jan 8 – Gazprom and Gazprom Transgaz Belarus have sealed additional agreements to extend the contracts for gas supplies to and gas transportation across Belarus until 2021. According to the newly-signed documents, the contractual supply and transit volumes in 2020 will remain at the level of 2019.

EastMed pipeline to take FID by 2022

Jan 7 – Greece, Cyprus and Israel have signed an agreement to build the 1,900-kilometre EastMed pipeline at an estimated cost of 6 billion Euros. The subsea pipeline, spanning over 1,900-kilometres would initially carry 10 Bcm of gas per annum from Israeli and Cypriot waters to Crete and then on to the Greek mainland and into the European gas network via Italy. A final investment decision (FID) is meant to be reached in 2022, given that the pipeline is scheduled for completion by 2025.

U.S. energy-related emissions drop over 2%

Jan 6 – Fewer emissions from coal consumption, combined with lower energy demand, have helped to significantly reduce the overall energy-related carbon emissions in the United States. According to government statistics, energy-related CO2 emissions fell 2.2 percent last year, and the downward trend is forecast to continue into 2020.

Brent crude prices surge

Jan 3 – North Sea Brent crude prices have risen to their highest level since September 2019, up nearly $3 per barrel because of Middle East tensions coupled with improved Chinese economic forecasts. Brent crude futures for March 2020 delivery were last seen trading at 69.21 per barrel the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). This bullish price sentiment will feed through to oil-indexed natural gas contracts and LNG deliveries, linked to the Japanese crude cocktail (JCC) basket price.

IEA says coal’s fate tied to Asia

Dec 23 – Rapid rise of wind and solar power in many parts of the world has pushed coal-fired power generation into steep decline in most developed countries. "But this is not the end of coal, since demand continues to expand in Asia," analysts at the International Energy Agency commented: "The region’s share of global coal power generation has climbed from just over 20 percent in 1990 to almost 80 percent in 2019, meaning coal’s fate is increasingly tied to decisions made in Asian capitals."

Drop in coal-burn makes Germany edge closer to climate targets

Dec 20 – In 2019, Germany managed to increase its greenhouse gas emissions for the second year in a row, mainly due to a 20 percent drop of coal use for power generation and a growing contribution from renewables. Energy savings and efficiency increases also helped. According to calculations by energy research group AG Energiebilanzen (AGEB), Germany’s primary energy consumption declined by 2.3 percent this year, overall energy use fell more than 2 percent, and energy-related CO2 emissions fell by as much as 7 percent.

Glencore buys Orsted’s lgas business unit

Dec 19 – UK-listed mining company Glencore has agreed to take over a loss-making natural gas business from Orsted, including long-term import capacity at the Gate regas terminal in Rotterdam and five other LNG purchase agreements. “The transaction entails a payment from Orsted to Glencore and will result in a loss that exceeds our current provision related to the LNG activities,” stated Copenhagen-based Orsted without disclosing the value of the transaction.

Carbon-intensive firms may shed over 40% in value

Dec 18 – Energy- and carbon-emissions intensive companies could lose up to 43% of their value if national governments enact more stringent policies to reduce air pollution and tackle climate change. Companies using green energy, in contrast, could gain up to 33% in value, research by the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) finds.

COP25 – a “lost opportunity”

Dec 17 – UN Secretary António Gutierrez has dismissed the outcome of the COP25 climate talks in Madrid as “disappointing” and “lost opportunity“. Some of the world’s largest emitters, including Australia, Brazil, China and Saudi Arabia had joined the U.S. in pushing for accounting loopholes to weaken commitments to reduce emissions in the transport and power generation sector.

Industry produces over 13% of Germany’s electricity

Dec 16 – Decentralized power generation at industrial sites keeps rising in Germany. According to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), industry produced 55 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of in 2018, meaning local units of mining and manufacturing generated 12.6 percent of the country's gross electricity output, mostly from gas-fired power units. The use of gas as a fuel for industrial power plants has consequently risen from around 35 percent to almost 50 percent over the last ten years.